BASEBALL: Giants merely clinging to a chance to repeat


At this point in August, after all their injuries and a 1-0 loss
to the Atlanta Braves on Thursday, there can be no delusions about
the Giants of 2011 anymore.
By Marcos Breton – McClatchy Newspapers

You had to laugh when the Giants posted their lineup Thursday night with Miguel Tejada back at shortstop and batting fifth.

Not long ago, the sight of Tejada lumbering into the hole between short and third or occupying a power spot in the order would have drawn howls from fans and the baseball press.

But at this point in August, after all their injuries and a 1-0 loss to the Atlanta Braves on Thursday, there can be no delusions about the Giants of 2011 anymore.

The Giants are still praying that players like Carlos Beltran will return from injury, but they are what they are.

On any given day, you have a 37-year-old Tejada at short and 36-year-old Orlando Cabrera at second base – baseball senior citizens at the most athletically challenging positions on the diamond.

You have no real leadoff hitter, dueling first basemen playing the outfield, starting second-string catchers and only one consistently scary hitter well enough to play every day in Pablo Sandoval.

Last week, this column focused on how no team has won a World Series by scoring fewer than 600 runs in a 162-game season.

It’s doubtful the 2011 Giants will score 600, and I admit having felt a twinge that maybe 2011 would deny the Giants a chance to retain their trophy.

They kept losing ground to the Arizona Diamondbacks in their division and the Atlanta Braves in the wild-card race.

Maybe the dream was over?

Last season, the Giants gutted their way through wins despite scoring few runs compared to most champions. People took their cues from broadcaster Duane Kuiper and yelled “Torture!” after every excruciating win.

Anytime anyone yells “torture” now, it sounds like disco after everyone agreed they hated disco.

So, what do you call what the Giants are doing in 2011: We stink, but we win?

You can’t rally behind that. It’s hard to create a slogan for something that makes no sense.

One thing is certain. Based on how some writers and baseball historians mentioned the 2010 Giants in the same breath with some of the worst World Series champions ever – largely for a lack of hitting stars and run production – the title will be called a fluke if the team fails to make the playoffs this season.

But what if it doesn’t fail?

What if these Giants prevail over a remaining schedule of mostly sub-.500 teams? What if they enter the postseason with the same stellar pitching staff, only more battle-hardened from the last year?

A Giants run in 2011 would break all the rules.

There have been fluke champions in baseball _ the 1985 Kansas City Royals, 1987 Minnesota Twins and 2006 St. Louis Cardinals.

The Royals had Hall of Famer George Brett and virtually no one else of consequence in their lineup. The Twins are the only champions to reach the postseason having given up more runs than they scored. The Cardinals reached the postseason with an 83-78 record, the worst of any eventual champion.

All three failed to make the playoffs the year after improbably winning it all.

Flukes are, by definition, one-year phenomenons. You can’t be a fluke if you go back-to-back.

But these Giants have no George Brett. They score fewer runs than they give up, just like the ’87 Twins. They don’t have the stellar hitters who lifted the ’06 Cardinals.

They are now a team full of injured players, proving how hard it is to repeat as champion. Yet, based on their emotional makeup and pitching excellence, the dream is still alive.

The Giants won’t let go of a chance to chase that wondrous feeling of accomplishment again. They cling to a chance to win in a way no team has won before.

Maybe they can build a slogan around that.

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